Gibraltar Open snooker 2021: Stephen Hendry – I need to improve to achieve Crucible dream
Stephen Hendry showed glimpses of his enduring class with a 107 break against close friend Matthew Selt after a nine-year absence from the main World Snooker Tour circuit ended in a 4-1 defeat in the Gibraltar Open first round. Despite being happy with aspects of his game in his much-heralded return, the seven-times world champion feels he will have to improve to qualify for the Crucible Theatre.
'Not yet' - Hendry knows he has work to do before Crucible test
Stephen Hendry concedes he will have to improve if he is to realise his dream of returning to the World Championship in April following a 4-1 defeat to close friend Matthew Selt in the Gibraltar Open first round.
Hendry was given a harsh lesson on the cut-throat nature of snooker at the highest level in his first competitive match on the main World Snooker Tour in nine years despite making a magnificent break of 107 in the second frame – his 776th century in the game.
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World number 25 Selt produced some superb battle-hardened match play behind closed doors in Milton Keynes boosted by a sharp long game that included breaks of 65 and 50 as he restricted the seven-times world champion to only 12 points in the final three frames.
Hendry, who turned 52 in January, was content with his first performance back in the limelight since retiring after a 13-2 defeat to fellow Scot Stephen Maguire in the 2012 world quarter-finals, but admits he will have to improve with the Crucible qualifiers starting on Wednesday 7 April at the English Institute of Sport in Sheffield.
"I was generally quite happy because if you cut out unforced errors, you can do well," said Hendry, who was handed a two-year tour card by WST chairman Barry Hearn in September to join fellow icons Jimmy White and Ken Doherty on the professional circuit.
"It was great. I really felt the nerves when I put my suit on in the hotel room. Getting ready and putting my suit on, I really felt quite nervous which is a good sign because without nerves you can't perform.
But it needs to be nerves of excitement and expectation rather than nerves of not knowing what is going to happen.
"I thought Matt played fantastic. I can't remember him missing a ball. It was a tough initiation back into it.
"My game isn't good enough yet to qualify for the World Championship," added Hendry, who claimed world victories in 1990, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996 and 1999 before enjoying work as a TV pundit in recent years.
"I think there is work to be done. I've got about a month of practice to get it better.
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"I played one or two good safety shots, but it wasn't tight enough.
On another day, it could be different. I've been commentating on matches where players are missing long balls all over the place. Matt never missed one.
"So if they don't go in and he leaves me in, it could be a different result. Matt's long game was fabulous.
"My safety has to be tighter and my long game has to be better. It's not ready yet to qualify for the Crucible."
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